Stimulation of human monocytes with LPS induces expression of multiple cytokines, including TNF-alpha, IL-1 beta, IL-6, and IL-10, IL-10 expression is delayed relative to that of TNF-alpha, IL-1 beta, and IL-6. Furthermore, IL-10 feedback inhibits expression of TNF-alpha, IL-1 beta, and IL-6, thus providing an efficient autocrine mechanism for controlling proinflammatory cytokine production in monocytes. The Th1-type lymphokine, IFN-gamma, markedly up-regulates TNF-alpha production in monocytes. However, the precise mechanism by which IFN-gamma mediates this effect is unknown. We examined the effects of IFN-gamma on IL-10 expression in LPS-stimulated monocytes, and the relationship between IL-10 and TNF-alpha production in these cells. LPS stimulation induced rapid, ordered expression of multiple cytokines. Steady-state mRNA levels for TNF-alpha increased rapidly, reached maximal levels by 2 to 3 h poststimulation, and then declined sharply. IL-1 beta and IL-6 mRNA levels also increased markedly following stimulation with LPS, but decreased more slowly than did TNF-alpha. Down-regulation of mRNA for TNF-alpha, IL-1 beta, and IL-6 coincided with a delayed and more gradual increase in IL-10 mRNA levels. Furthermore, neutralization of IL-10 with anti-IL-10 Abs prolonged TNF-alpha mRNA expression, and significantly increased net TNF-alpha production. IFN-gamma suppressed expression of IL-10 mRNA and protein in a dose-dependent manner. Moreover, inhibition of IL-10 production correlated with a marked increase in both the magnitude and duration of TNF-alpha expression. Thus, potentiation of TNF-alpha production by IFN-gamma in monocytes is coupled to inhibition of endogenous IL-10 expression.